Flatulence is the passing of gas, or wind, through the back passage. The gaseous discharge will have been produced in the intestines as a result of a number of reasons, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The condition may also lead to belching, generally referred to gas expelled from the mouth, having come up from the stomach.
Flatulence is a normal bodily function. However, in excess, it can result in bloating and can be embarrassing, inconvenient and a real problem for people in their daily lives.
There are a number of possible explanations as to why IBS can cause flatulence.
A characteristic feature of IBS is abnormal and uncoordinated bowel contractions. When these are too rapid, we may experience diarrhoea. If too weak or too slow, the result is constipation.
If bowel transit time (the time that food takes to pass through the gut) is too quick, food is only partially undigested. Natural bacteria residing in the gut feed on this and a process called fermentation starts up, which produces gas and gives rise to flatulence. In addition, food moving too quickly through the digestive system may also cause pockets of trapped gas, worsening the problem.
Certain foods are more prone to producing gas because of how they interact with gut bacteria. This list includes beans, pulses and certain vegetable such as brussel sprouts.
Another aspect to consider is that strains of bacteria in the gut, also known as microbiota, may differ in people with IBS compared to those in an average person. Generally, gut bacterial strains can be categorised as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If the ‘bad’ strains dominate the ‘good’, undesirable symptoms associated with IBS such as diarrhoea and flatulence may result.
A more simple explanation is when bowel contractions are weak, the passage of waste material in the gut slows and gas becomes trapped. This can result in bloating and flatulence.
If lifestyle or natural remedies fail to help with your symptoms, a trip to your doctor or pharmacist may be needed. They can suggest medication that can help absorb and expel excess gas.
Seek help from your doctor if excessive flatulence is unexplained or persistent, accompanied by moderate or severe pain or if there is blood in your stools.